Game of Thrones: Season Two Plot Summary

By James T. Cains

The second season of Game of Thrones dramatizes the second novel of the book series, A Clash of Kings. To find out what happened before, read the recap of the first season of Game of Thrones. In the wake of King Robert Baratheon’s death and news of the illegitimate parentage of his heir Joffrey, who now sits on the Iron Throne, several lords across Westeros have taken the title of king and strive to unseat Joffrey and claim the Iron Throne for themselves.

The season opens beyond the Wall, where Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly, and a company of rangers search for Jon’s uncle, Benjen Stark, and investigate sightings of White Walkers and rumors of an army of wildlings amassing for Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. Jon and company stay at the home of a repulsive man named Craster, who has many wives, most of which are his own daughters.

The War of the Five Kings begins

In King’s Landing, under the specter of a blood-red comet crossing the sky, Tyrion Lannister arrives to take the position of acting Hand of the King, much to his sister Cersei’s disliking. Tyrion criticizes Cersei and Joffrey’s handling of the Starks — the beheading of Ned Stark, which incited the current war, and the escape of Arya Stark, leaving Sansa Stark as their only hostage. Meanwhile, at Dragonstone, King Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s younger brother, believes he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Stannis’s younger brother, Renley, is also claiming the right to the throne. Both are assembling armies to challenge Joffrey.

Arya, masquerading as a boy, has joined a group of Night’s Watch recruits heading for the Wall. Among the group is one of King Robert’s illegitimate children, Gendry, who sees through Arya’s disguise and befriends her. Lannister soldiers have been looking for Robert’s illegitimate children to eliminate them to prevent any other claims on the Iron Throne, so both Gendry and Arya have secrets to hide.

At Robb Stark’s request, Theon Greyjoy travels home to the Iron Islands to ask his father for an alliance between the Starks and the Greyjoys against the Lannisters. His father, Balon, rejects the request and questions Theon’s loyalty after having lived with the Starks for so long. Theon also meets his older sister, Yara, who Balon says is more “ironborn” than Theon is — a great insult to Theon. Balon reveals that, instead of marching on King’s Landing or the Lannisters, he plans to attack the relatively undefended North.

Daenerys: Queen and Mother of Dragons

In Essos, Daenerys Targaryen, after suffering the loss of her husband and stillborn son, leads her remaining followers across the hazardous desert with her three baby dragons. They arrive at the city of Qarth, where they are provided food and shelter, though the interest that the Qarth leaders show in Daenerys’s dragons is suspicious.

At Craster’s Keep beyond the Wall, Jon discovers a shocking secret: Craster is giving his male offspring to the White Walkers. Craster catches Jon spying and orders the Night’s Watch out of his home. The company heads out for the Fist of the First Men.

At King’s Landing, Joffrey is furious over Robb Stark’s march into the Westerlands (which is Lannister territory) and his victories over the Lannister army. He takes his anger out on Sansa by publically abusing her in punishment for her bother Robb’s actions. Sansa refuses to be riled, continuing to pledge her loyalty to Joffrey (though she is lying). Tyrion stops the abuses, berating the king for humiliating his future queen.

At the army camp of King Renly Baratheon, Catelyn Stark arrives to try to convince Renly to ally with her son Robb. She also meets Renly’s wife, Margaery Tyrell, and the female knight, Brienne of Tarth, who has just earned a place in Renly’s Kingsguard by winning a tournament. Later, Petyr Baelish, King Joffrey’s envoy, meets with Renly to try to work out a deal, promising to help Renly destroy the Lannisters from within. Baelish also meets with Catelyn, suggesting a trade: Jaime Lannister (who is still held prisoner by Robb) for Sansa and Arya (Catelyn doesn’t know that Arya is still free).

Arya, Gendry, and their fellow Night’s Watch recruits are attacked by Lannister soldiers looking for Gendry. They are captured, but the soldiers don’t know the true identities of Arya and Gendry. They are taken with the other prisoners to the castle at Harrenhal. Soon after, Tywin arrives with the main host of his army to set up a base of operations at Harrenhal and soon decides to have his army pursue Robb Stark’s army in an effort to prevent them from taking Casterly Rock. Tywin, not knowing who Arya and Gendry are, puts them both to work in the castle — Gendry as a blacksmith and Arya as Tywin’s cupbearer.

At Renly’s army camp, King Stannis meets with Renly to attempt to convince him to give up his claim to the throne. Renly refuses, telling his brother that no one wants Stannis to be king and showing off his vast army. Later, Davos (Stannis’s advisor) leads the priestess Melisandre, who has magical abilities and has seduced Stannis, to some caves near Renly’s camp. There, she appears to give birth to a creature made entirely of shadows.

The murder of King Renly

The shadow creature murders King Renly in his tent in front of Catelyn and Brienne. However, when discovered, they are accused of his murder and must flee. Renly’s army disbands, many soldiers joining Stannis’s cause. Later, Stannis decides that he will send his fleet to attack King’s Landing. Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, Joffrey continues to grow more out of control and abusive as Tyrion struggles to contain him.

In the Iron Islands, Theon is given command of a ship and a mission that he feels is unworthy of him. So he decides to return to Winterfell instead — this time, to take control of the castle. Theon and his forces meet little resistance and capture Bran Stark, Rickon Stark, and several others. Osha, a wildling woman who has been looking after Bran, and Hodor, a big but simple man who’s main responsibility has been to carry the paralyzed Bran from place to place, frees them. They all flee Winterfell. Theon searches for Bran and Rickon, but when he can’t find them, he murders two other children, burns them beyond recognition, and hangs them on display in Winterfell, claiming that they are Bran and Rickon. Meanwhile, word of Theon’s betrayal reaches Robb, and he is furious, demanding that Theon be brought to him alive.

In Qarth, Daenerys tries to negotiate for ships to take her to Westeros, but to no avail. She returns to her room to find her guards dead and her dragons missing. Ignoring the advice of her advisors to leave Qarth and her dragons, she goes in search of them.

Beyond the Wall, Jon meets up with a wildling woman named Ygritte and soon develops an attraction to her. However, he can’t act on that attraction because of his vows to the Night’s Watch. Ygritte leads Jon into a wildling ambush and he is captured. The wildlings have captured another member of the Night’s Watch, Qhorin Halfhand, and the wildling leader says he doesn’t need two captives and orders Jon executed. Ygritte convinces the leader to spare Jon because of his Stark blood. Meanwhile, back at the Fist of the First Men, Samwell discovers a cache of weapons made of dragon glass, which are said to be the only thing that can kill White Walkers.

King Stannis’s fleet approaches King’s Landing, while Tyrion searches for ways to defend the city. At Harrenhal, Tywin hears of the approaching fleet and decides to march to King’s Landing to defend it. With Tywin leaving, Arya decides to escape Harrenhall with Gendry. At Robb’s camp, Catelyn decides to free Jaime, against her son’s wishes, and have Brienne escort him back to King’s Landing in an exchange for the return of her two daughters. Robb is furious at Catelyn’s decision and orders her held under guard.

The Battle of the Blackwater

King Stannis’s fleet attacks King’s Landing in the Battle of the Blackwater. Tyrion leads the defense of the city, with King Joffrey there on the front lines, but having little effect. Tyrion orders the use of wildfire (a highly volatile liquid) to destroy much of Stannis’s fleet. Cercei orders Joffrey brought from the front lines to safety, and Joffrey willingly abandons his position, which damages morale. Tyrion must rally the troops in Joffrey’s stead to repel an attack on the city walls led by King Stannis himself. However, Tyrion is wounded, and his forces are forced to retreat. When victory seems close at hand for Stannis, the Lannister army arrives, as well as the Tyrell army (their new allies), to outflank Stannis’s forces. Outnumbered, Stannis’s army breaks into retreat and flees. King Stannis survives, but most of his fleet is destroyed and his forces are scattered.

While Tyrion recovers, Joffrey makes Tywin Hand of the King and Tyrion has lost all his power, despite his efforts to defend the city. To cement the new alliance with House Tyrell, Joffrey agrees to cancel his betrothal to Sansa, much to her relief, and marry Margaery Tyrell, widow of Renly Baratheon. Though it appears Sansa will be free of Joffrey’s abuses, Petyr Baelish advises her that Joffrey can still keep her there and promises to help Sansa escape King’s Landing.

Elsewhere, Robb has fallen in love with a woman named Talisa and marries her, setting aside a promise to marry a daughter of House Frey, which would have cemented an alliance established early on in the war. Theon loses control of Winterfell and is captured by Roose Bolton’s illegitimate son, Ramsay. Bran and Rickon, helped by Osha and Hodor, head for the Wall to find Jon, while Arya is determined to reunite with her family.

In Qarth, Daenerys’s search for her dragons leads her to the House of the Undying and a confrontation with the magician Pyat Pree, who had stolen her dragons. In the room in which her dragons are chained, Pyat also chains Daenerys through magic. Pyat thinks he has won, but Daenerys commands her dragons to fill the chamber with fire, which incinerates Pyat. Daenerys is unharmed. Afterward, Daenerys and her followers obtain enough money to buy a ship.

Beyond the Wall, Qhorin Halfhand and Jon hatch a plot to infiltrate Jon as a spy among the wildlings; however, the plan requires Jon to kill Qhorin to demonstrate his apparent betrayal of the Night’s Watch. After Jon reluctantly kills Qhorin, he is released and joins the wildlings. Ygritte promises to take Jon to the King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder. At the Fist of the First Men, Samwell sees a vast army of White Walkers and their servants, wights, marching south toward the Wall.

To find out what happens next, read the recap of season three of Game of Thrones.